December 20, 2010

Visions of Sugarplums?

No, I'm not printing, or sketching, or, let's be honest, even thinking about it much these days.  I'm swept up in a whirlwind of pre-Christmas preparations and, although we're once again doing our best to avoid the commercial frenzy and we're not running around shopping, there are still many things to be done.  

My idea of the ideal Christmas doesn't change much from year to year. For me it's all about creating an atmosphere of sanctuary: music, family, some special food treats to share.  And it's also about celebrating tradition. It's much too easy these days to get caught up with modern toys and conveniences and I won't, and can't, pretend I don't like all the new technology available to me: my iPod, my computer, my Blackberry. But it's also important to me to step back from these modern things, and turn my hands to some type of timeworn ritual that goes back further than I can remember.

Christmas baking is like that.  I tell myself each year I'm not going to bake anymore.  All those cookies are fattening, making them is time consuming, I could be doing other things. And yet each year, at the last minute usually, I break down again and tie on my apron, turn on the CD of old Czech Christmas folk carols, and get busy.  The music sends me back to the days when my mother and I stood side by side baking, listening to the carols (and singing along), turning to recipes older than either one of us.   

This year, my mother's forgotten how to bake.  She sits on the couch watching TV, only vaguely aware Christmas is almost here.  This year it was Nora and I who stood side by side and baked to the sound of Czech folk carols which she, of course, didn't understand a word of but it didn't matter.  It's all about the ritual.  About honouring that ritual and about bringing it forward to bloom into something new.

I think we did pretty well too.  Here's some of the cookies we made:

  Bear Paws in the making...
and Bear Paws finished
Butter Cookies with Home Made Jam 
 Little Moors 
 Coconut Puffs 

Anyway, whatever your tradition for this time of year is, I wish you and yours a splendid, peaceful, and holy Christmas (whatever your idea of "holy" may be).  Thanks for dropping in to visit. 

December 12, 2010

It's Beginning to Feel a Little Like Christmas

So here we are, less than two weeks before Christmas, and I'm trying to summon up some kind of positive "Christmassy" emotion.  Each year it seems to get harder. Today I played carols and Nora and I baked Christmas cookies and that helped. 

Before that, Roland and I went out into the pouring rain and bought our tree for this year: a little potted fir, barely four feet tall and on the sparse side, but it's alive and that feels right somehow.  Plus it's better for the environment. 

I also finished up some cards so I guess I need to get it together and send them out, before it's too late. 

They're very simple, I carved the image out of a piece of Staedtler mastercarve a couple of weeks ago after I talked myself into making them.  I wasn't going to bother with it this year, I didn't feel inspired to it really.  But I also knew that, after years of sending out hand-made cards, I'd never feel right about going back to store bought ones.  Oh the motivating power of guilt... 

December 05, 2010

Closing Up 2010

It maybe just a little premature, with three weeks left to go before this old year is done, but I'm already, in a few odd ways, starting to roll up the carpets and close the shutters.  Figuratively speaking.  First, I finished the last print of this year.  I'm calling it Coquihalla Autumn, in honour of the Coquihalla Highway and the surrounding scenery we drove through a couple of months ago.

This is how the print looked last week, with a new layer of green:

This week I added the last three colours, in a mad race to completion before I turn to Christmas baking and card making and all the rest of the pre-Christmas mayhem.  

On the glass:

On the block:

On the print:

Coquihalla Autumn
8 x 9.5 inches
Rising Stonehenge paper & Daniel Smith water soluble inks
But, along with finishing the print, this Friday I closed the door on another project. Tomorrow morning, in my non-printmaking life, I start a brand new job.  After almost four years, three of which were spent at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics unit, I say so long to the RCMP and the boys (and girls) in red serge.  Eight months in the regular police environment(i.e. non-Olympic safety-focused) made me realize I'm not cut out for routine police work. I'm heading downtown to the Department of Justice, to a less crime-centric environment and the butterflies are beginning to stir inside my stomach already. 
A good way to end the year I think.